Mental Health, Gun Violence, and the “Lone Wolf” Excuse

I took part in the national student walk out on April 20th this year, as I’m sure many of you who are reading this did. My school’s protest was amazing. The wonderful people there gave me an idea of what it was like to stand up for something you believe in. We talked about a lot of different issues, a lot of really important issues, but something wasn’t mentioned.

Mental health is used as a reason for shooters, almost exclusively white shooters, committing their heinous crimes. To take the focus away from a conversation on gun control, people often say that we need to put more funding into mental health efforts. They say what really makes someone a murderer, the root of the issue, is their depression or some other mental illness. I don’t think it’s talked about enough from the perspective of people with mental health issues.  

While we definitely need more mental health funding and resources, that is a separate conversation which should not be talked about in conjunction with mass murderers. I’m going to break it down from the perspective of someone who, according to a lot of people on the Internet, apparently has the capability to murder someone. I have had issues with anxiety, depression, and bullying. I’m a real human. And I’m not “insane.”

I want to clear up again that mental health is a serious issue. I would love for it to be paid more attention to, and obviously bullying is a very serious problem, but it needs to be its own conversation. We can’t just care about it every time another tragedy comes around, and we can’t just pretend to care about it in order to derail conversations about how to best stop gun violence. You see it every time someone mentions stricter gun laws. Someone else counters by saying the problem was a mental health issue. These people only seem to care about mental health in this context, and it sends a message to me and to others that you think mentally ill people have more of a capability for violence than others and that’s just not true. In fact, mentally ill people are actually more likely to be victims of violence than others. You’re ignoring complex issues and trying to use a whole group of people that you don’t actually care about to push against those fighting for stricter gun laws.

Here’s a message from someone who struggles with mental health: don’t use me. Don’t use my brain as an excuse for any tragedy that happens. Keep your focus on what is so different here than in other nations when you come up with reasons that the latest shooting has occurred. We need to help the situation in our country, and the best solution is gun reform.

I’ve seen a lot of people taking it really well when a new article comes out saying the latest mass murderer was just a troubled, lonely kid. I saw a tweet that said something along the lines of: “hey raise your hand if you’re lonely and have been bullied and don’t want to murder people.” These jokes help to lighten the situation and get a point across but I’m tired. I’m tired of hearing about myself and people like me in a way that makes me feel like an alien to others. I’m tired of hearing myself talked about as a threat. I’m tired of being compared to real threats to our safety that could’ve been prevented by tighter background checks and closing the loopholes in gun sales all across the country.

Please keep in mind that when you think mental health might’ve been the reason for another massacre in our nation, people with mental health issues exist all around you and all over the world in countries with far less mass shootings. We don’t appreciate being a tool for you to further your argument.

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